Five boxing fights to make in 2019 include heavyweight blockbusters, Canelo-GGG trilogy
Things are looking up for the sweet science this year with plenty of premiere matchups to choose from
It has been a long time since boxing has felt this hot, between lucrative broadcasting deals, a pound-for-pound core of prime talent and the renaissance of the sport's heavyweight division.
With the increased competition between promoters and networks brings the potential for heartbreak should the further segregation of the powers that be lead to the best fights not getting made. Boxing, of course, has a long history of playing such tricks on fans by teasing can't-miss fights that don't have a ton of potential to actually happen.
It's because of said reality that a list of the five best fights to make in 2019 can't include, for example, a welterweight unification between unbeaten stars Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr., since it's a fight that would currently be a political nightmare to make. Other bouts that at least have a fighting chance to be made will be included.
Let's take a closer look at our wish list for the sweet science.
- Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury (vs. Oleksandr Usyk)
Yes, this is cheating a bit. But if we learned anything in 2018 -- from Wilder-Fury to Wilder's comeback win over Luis Ortiz and Joshua's knockout of Alexander Povetkin -- it's that great heavyweight fights still matter (and still have the power to capture the attention of mainstream sports fans). For many fans, Joshua-Wilder would be tops on the list of best fights to make considering it's a matchup between prime, unbeaten champions to produce the first four-belt undisputed heavyweight champion. Others, however, would be more than happy to see Fury get a second chance at Wilder after their first fight,, created boxing's moment of the year with Fury rising off the deck in Round 12 and showcased such an epic clash of styles. How about we get crazy and insert Usyk into this conversation, as well, considering the undisputed cruiserweight champion appears poised to head north and match his technical wizardry with the big boys. The bottom line is that the heavyweight division is fun again and given how rare that has been to consistently have this many names of note atop the division, any combination of fights against one another means big business and appointment viewing.
2. Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Mikey Garcia
There are certainly a pair of hurdles to this fight coming to fruition: Not only is Garcia revamping his body and moving up two weight classes in a dare-to-be-great challenge of Spence's IBF welterweight title in March, the Mexican-American star doesn't necessarily get along great with his former promoter Bob Arum, who represents Lomachenko. But considering Garcia is a promotional free agent and can, in theory, work with anyone, this is a fight that is very much in play (especially if Garcia loses to Spence and moves back own). It's also a fight that Lomachenko, the pound-for-pound king, has publicly called for and is about as good a fight as can be made in the sport from the standpoint of technical skill. This lightweight summit wouldn't just answer the question of who is the best 135-pounder in the sport, it might just answer who is the best boxer overall. For all of Lomachenko's sublime brilliance, Garcia's power as a precision counter puncher could prove to be his ultimate Kryptonite.
3. Keith Thurman vs. Errol Spence Jr.
While Crawford-Spence would understandably be the preferred welterweight unification fight, this one is knocking on its door in terms of quality, the potential for excitement and how badly it's needed. It also doesn't hurt that both fighters are under the PBC banner and managed by Al Haymon. The only thing that could prevent this fight from happening in 2019 is Thurman's personal timetable coming back from a two-year layoff due to hand and elbow surgeries. The WBA champion returns to face Josesito Lopez on Jan. 26 and has talked about wanting to push off any unification fights to 2020. It's difficult to believe, however, that mounting criticism would allow that. Either way, the current welterweight picture with names like Crawford, Thurman, Spence, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia has fans remembering similar 147-pound golden erase of the mid-1980s and late-1990s. And Thurman-Spence is the type of showdown for true supremacy between prime studs in boxing's money division that helps define eras.
4. Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin III
One might be tempted out of some sort of personal customer fatigue (or belief that every new day makes GGG, who turns 37 in April, closer to extinction) that nothing new can be learned from a third fight. Tell that to Golovkin, of course, who believes (along with many fans and critics) that. Also, do yourself a favor and go back and watch both fights, each of which finished their respective year as contenders for best fight. A trilogy bout can only be made should Golovkin, the most sought after television free agent in the sport, follows Alvarez to DAZN after the Mexican star signed a landmark, 11-fight deal with the streaming app worth $365 million. But should you need anymore reason to want a third fight for the real middleweight championship, consider this: Whether you chalk it up to corruption, ineptitude or judging preference, one would be smart enough to realize at this point that Golovkin probably won't be able to outbox his younger foe over 12 rounds. GGG's best path to victory likely comes as a seek-and-destroyer who is willing to throw caution to the wind and rely on his iron chin to out-slug Alvarez in a modern day Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns affair.
5. Naoya Inoue vs. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
Adding this one for the hard-cores as a showdown between Inoue, the 25-year-old Japanese "Monster" and three-division champion, and Sor Rungvisai, the Thailand-based 115-pound king who twice conquered former P4P king Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez would be nothing short of an epic slugfest. Both fighters are of the seek-and-destroy variety with Inoue among the sport's biggest punchers and SSR among its toughest and most durable. Even though Inoue recently moved up to bantamweight, where he has advanced to the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series tournament, SSR recently kept busy with a non-title fight of his own at 118 pounds. Both fighters are worthy of the top 10-P4P recognition they have been awarded despite rarely fighting on U.S. television. But for whatever this matchup lacks in crossover recognition, it almost doubles in guarantees for excitement.
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